Maria P Donatucci
What office are you seeking?
I the incumbent. I have served since February 2011. My Committees: Appropriations, Transportation, Labor, Liquor and Rules. Some of my hard fought issues are, but not limited to, equal pay for equal work, paid sick leave, safe campuses, equal rights for all, raising the minimum wage, not wearing seat belts as a primary offense, expanding the age for cervical cancer testing and mammograms for under insured or non-insured individuals to correlate with private insurance guidelines (passed out of the House) and I made it safer to call 911 with the passage of HB1310. I voted for Act 89 - transportation bill, a matter that will soon be revisited.
Some of Philadelphia’s most dangerous streets for pedestrians and cyclists based on injury statistics are PennDOT-owned arterials, many of which are major downtown streets and commercial corridors running through densely-populated parts of Philadelphia. So far, PennDOT has been indifferent to calls from safety advocates for the kinds of engineering changes to these roads that would calm traffic. Would you use your position to support advocates' calls for safer urban arterials? What types of legislative and policy changes are needed to correct this problem at PennDOT? (https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/commentary/philadelphia-traffic-fatalities-penndot-20190208.html)
It’s my understanding that when a state highway goes through a locale, there are agreements between City and State. There are 67 counties and 2,560 municipalities with local engineers weighing in. I will look at the Code and get back to you.
Pennsylvania recently passed legislation enabling automated speed enforcement on Roosevelt Blvd and highway work zones. Do you support the expansion of automated speed enforcement cameras to School Zones and on other High Injury Network streets throughout Philadelphia? (https://whyy.org/articles/roosevelt-boulevard-speed-cameras-represent-rare-bipartisan-win/)
☒ Other: The speed camera program was initiated as a pilot program. Once we see how it works out, we can consider expanding it. There may be a need for tweaking the bill. Hopefully, it works as intended.
I co-sponsored this bill, voted it out of Committee and voted for it on the House Floor.
Pennsylvania is the only state in the U.S. that bans local law enforcement from using radar for vehicle speed enforcement. Do you support lifting this ban? (https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/06/is-2019-the-year-local-cops-in-pa-will-get-radar.html)
☒ Other: I think this is more easily done in smaller municipalities and suburban and rural areas. That is why we are testing g speed cameras on Roosevelt Blvd. and work zones. I think we need to give that program a chance.
I voted to get this bill out of the Transportation Committee. I know there is bound to be debate on the house floor and possibly amendments. Some of the worry meant for the City of the First Class is where do you set them up and whether it could take police away from patrolling and crime prevention. Also, there are legislators in the state who feel that this is a money making scheme (as did many with the speed cameras. However, the pilot program is in Phila. Only and highway work areas because of the deaths of highway workers). Maybe it can start out as a pilot program to see if there is any affect on crime prevention in the City of the First Class.
Do you support state enabling legislation to allow Philadelphia and other cities to use cameras for congestion-related enforcement? Areas that should be enforced by camera include bus zones, travel lanes, corner clearances, crosswalks, delivery zones, and non-curb pickups and drop-offs by ride-hailing drivers. Currently, the law allows for enforcement only upon the observation of an officer. Cameras allow a more cost-efficient alternative and are less subject to human and systemic biases. (https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/commentary/traffic-congestion-philadelphia-parking-tickets-ppa-20191211.html)
☒ Other: This appears to be an issue to look into.
There are always gray areas in concepts that look great on paper. Hearings should be held with stakeholders to determine what is workable, where it is workable and what the language should like like. This is the beginning process to make an idea into a law. Again, maybe it can state out as a pilot program to see how it works.
Act 89 transportation funds have historically been diverted to pay the state police budget, reducing the funds available to pay for public transit and road projects. What is the best way to safeguard this revenue to ensure that Commonwealth residents see all the transportation improvements they were promised when state lawmakers raised the gas tax? (https://www.penncapital-star.com/government-politics/can-you-pay-for-infrastructure-repairs-without-raising-state-taxes-in-new-plan-house-gop-says-yes/)
I voted for Act 89. Being from Philadelphia and the SE Region I voiced that I would not vote for a transportation bill that did not include funding to SEPTA (public transit). The cost of paying State Police for patrolling municipalities, etc., that don’t have their own police departments has cut into the transportation budget drastically. Last year The Governor came up with a fee for those areas, it didn’t happen. There has also been numerous legislation drawn up over the years that have gone nowhere. However, there are a lot of areas without local police. Two-thirds of Pennsylvania municipalities rely on state police for part- or full-time patrol services instead of having a full-time local police force and the area covered is mostly rural. Many legislators have areas relying on PSP and the legislation has gone nowhere. With the onset of Appropriation Budget Hearings, this issue will come up again and we need to get a formula in place to stop this cut into the transportation budget. I’ll keep you informed.
What are some of your own ideas for enhancing mobility and improving road safety in your district and Philadelphia more broadly?
I believe that not wearing seat belts, texting while driving and not using hands off phones should be primary offenses. I would also like to see more turn on arrow turn lights (like at Broad and Washington Avenue) at congested intersections. I would also like to see lower speed limits on smaller neighborhood streets and possibly speed bumps if needed. I would also like to see traffic fines doubled in school zones.
Act 44, which transfers $450 million a year from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to public transit agencies, is set to expire in 2022. What is your plan to safeguard and expand the state revenue dedicated to public transit after this law expires? (https://wskg.org/news/pa-turnpike-escapes-catastrophic-lawsuit-but-remains-heavily-in-debt/)
I say we revisit this policy. I support funding public transportation and will expect to see it in a new Transportation Bill
Do you support dedicated transit lanes and legislation enabling “Automated Transit Lane Enforcement” cameras mounted on transit vehicles and on roadsides to deter other vehicles from using these lanes? (https://mobilitylab.org/2018/09/17/automated-bus-lane-enforcement-is-more-effective-than-police-among-other-findings/)
☒ Other: I think these are policies that need to be studied and tested.
Presently there is construction going on throughout the City of Philadelphia causing lane closures, street closures, etc. it can wreak havoc right now. Also, all vehicles can go into a bus lane to make a right hand turn. Also, a vehicle might go around another vehicle in the left hand lane waiting for a parking space. I would like to look into this further, read studies and then round table with stake holders. Also, there can be unintended consequences of TNC prices going up. I do believe that drivers should be in their designated lanes when possible.
Do you support state enabling legislation for congestion pricing, permitting municipalities and regions to institute tolls on automobiles entering into the most congested areas, and using the funds for improvements to transit, and for infrastructure for walking and bicycling? (https://www.inquirer.com/transportation/congestion-pricing-new-york-philadelphia-traffic-20190402.html)
☒ Other: There is a process to law making.
I want to look into the constitutionality of this plan and I will always sit with stakeholders for discussions. In a lot of transportation issues we look to studies and analysis.
SEPTA has the capability to expand its rapid transit service by simply running its commuter rail lines more frequently and integrating its fares with subways and buses. But to do so, the agency will need to prioritize certain capital improvements and implement some operational reforms. Do you support such an expansion for our city's train service? (https://whyy.org/articles/analysis-how-septa-can-turn-regional-rail-in-philly-into-high-frequency-rapid-transit/)
As a legislator, how would you use the power of your office to advance those changes, instead of retaining the current structure which caters more to professional-class suburban commuters?
I really don’t want suburban commuters to bring their cars into the city causing more congestion. I believe in change but there has to be analysis of costs, budgets and where we get funding. I’m all for progress, let’s take a look at this.
What are some of your own ideas for solutions to improve the quality (frequency, speed, and accessibility) of transit service in your district and Philadelphia more broadly?
I would love the subway extended to the Navy Yard. At one time the subway stopped at Snyder Avenue. It was extended to Broad and Pattison in 1973 for commuting to the Stadium. However, I have tried to think of alternatives. Maybe something similar to the Camden river line. It could connect commuters from the subway to the Navy Yard, have various stops throughout the Navy Yard and possibly wind down, or have an alternate route connecting to the stadiums and new Casino. Also, there was a ferry connecting NJ commuters to the Navy Yard. I have to ascertain which part of NJ it connects to so that we figure out if it could connect NJ commuters to the Navy Yard then the river line connecting them to stadiums AND the subway and bus lines to travel to center city where they, hopefully, spend money in our City! Plus, it could reduce the amount of cars coming into the City from NJ for workers. Is it feasible? It’s an idea to look at. I had an issue in SW Phila and I went to SEPTA to see how to work it out. Sometimes concepts are just that. Other times brainstorming can create viable solutions. I also have the airport in my district. I secured funding for development. They have added so many new direct flights to cities in the US and abroad. It keeps travelers using our airport instead of seeking out flights at Newark and JFK. Let’s keep the revenue in our City. I have even questioned some of Amtrak’s time tables. Out of my jurisdiction but affecting my constituents.
California’s legislature recently introduced a pro-housing bill SB 50, which would preempt local zoning restrictions on dense housing construction near high-quality transit, and in high-opportunity areas with large concentrations of jobs or in-demand school districts. Similar bills have also been introduced by progressive lawmakers in Oregon, Washington, Maryland, and Virginia to preempt local exclusionary zoning policies like apartment bans, parking quotas, and minimum lot size rules from the state level. Do you support amending Pennsylvania’s Municipal Planning Code to preempt local exclusionary zoning policies in this way, with the goal of allowing transit-oriented housing near state-funded transit and commuter rail stations? (https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/01/sb50-california/604786/)
☒ Other: I would have to familiarize myself with how it works.
Again, this is a conversation for stakeholders including residents, discussing pros, cons and how it might work in our City. I am open for discussion and watching how it works in other Cities. California doesn’t have a transit system like Philadelphia, where we work at moving commuters. I have concerns about over-saturating any area. Some regulations are for safety. I still see young people moving into neighborhoods. There are more than buildings involved in housing and street planning. There are people. There is green space. Remember, a lot of old neighborhoods (especially row homes) were built on the concept of fitting many people into housing built near manufacturing, textile, construction, even the refinery. In other words - jobs. With the building of housing came neighborhood restaurants, stores, bakeries, etc. Building neighborhoods accommodated the new immigrants. Cities were built. It’s a familiar concept. However, as density and crowding progressed, there was a mass exodus to the suburbs. Thankfully, people have returned and new residents have come. I think we need to work together for the new wave of construction and what we envision the future of our City to look like. We also want job creation to keep our students and talent here. That’s a whole different conversation.
The century-old Separations Act requires multiple bids for all different parts of public construction projects in Pennsylvania, which some state officials believe makes public works projects unnecessarily expensive and inefficient, and precluding Design-Build firms from bidding on public construction projects. Will you support and advocate for repeal of the Separations Act? (https://www.yorkdispatch.com/story/opinion/contributors/2017/03/07/oped-s-time-repeal-separations-act-pa/98857412/)
The Separations Act ensures that professionals and skilled employees are working on specialized construction projects, and that a general contractor doesn’t play subcontracting groups off of each other to unfairly keep down costs.
Governor Tom Wolf has announced his intentions for Pennsylvania to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative—a regional cap and trade program that could push PA to cut emissions more aggressively, while generating revenue for public transit, clean energy, and other priorities. Joining RGGI would likely require an act of the state legislature, and different interest groups within the Democratic Party have taken different positions on this, with some building trades unions on one side and environmental groups on the other. If elected, would you support legislation to join RGGI?(https://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2019/10/03/gov-wolf-pennsylvania-regional-greenhouse-gas-initiative/)
☒ Other: This is basically another buy and sell credit program to limit emissions.
this is a cap and trade system for fossil-fuel power plants of 25 MW or greater. The concept appears to be working as it generated revenue which was used on environmentally friendly programs; however, it’s questionable if substantial carbon reduction has occurred because of It. During the years of rggi a lot of coal production was replaced by natural gas. Since it’s 2020, we’ll have a better understanding of whsy worked and what didn’t. We can move on from there.
Tell us more about what you bring to the table as an ally for urbanist politics in Harrisburg. What makes you the right person to advance the urbanist movement’s goals politically or substantively at the state level? How would you build support for pro-urbanist policies among your colleagues from outside our region?
Government and governing is complicated and affects different groups of people, many with different ideas OR same ideas with different solutions. Compromise is the art of differing opinions coming together for a viable solution. Dictators don’t compromise. I listen - to community groups, stakeholders, Agencies, etc. When I don’t agree, I explain why. Plus, at the State level we have 67 counties, 2560 Municipalities and 203 legislators weighing in on laws that will affect all of our constituents. I had to “fight” a lawmaker from Moon County preempting something in my City. I fight the fight and will continue to do so. I’m known to quote the following: I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.